Greetings from the Black Hills National Forest in beautiful South Dakota! We’ve had a glorious couple of weeks here, and wanted to share with you all what we’ve been up to. Thus far, we’re learning that we’ve been able to work (remember…NOT vacation!) and still have time for a lot of activities.

We’re still settling into this lifestyle, so blogs and updates might be a bit sporadic at first. That said, we definitely want to share what this journey is allowing us to do, and what it’s doing in us. More to come soon!

Holy Smoke Resort – Keystone, SD

First things first, we want to use this space as an opportunity to review the campgrounds we’re staying in across this great country – for better or for worse. Thankfully, in Keystone, we have had an amazing experience, and our campground has been great. Holy Smoke is pretty no-frills, but there are full hookups, and aside from a tiny bit of highway noise from 16A, the location is great. We had a little trouble getting into our first spot due to some tight trees, an incline, and some mud, but they were more than happy for us to move to another spot with a little more space.

The campground itself is less than 5 minutes to Keystone, less than 10 to Mount Rushmore and the Iron Mountain Road (more on that in a bit) and only about 20 minutes or so from Rapid City. Overall, we’d definitely recommend Holy Smoke if you’re passing through.

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore is just one of those things you HAVE to see. Luckily, we were just a few minutes away from it in Keystone, so we got to see it quite a bit as we traveled around. Baron worked through his booklet on the Junior Ranger program. This was his second Junior Ranger certification so far – he’s becoming kind of a pro at it – but he’s been telling us that maybe we don’t need to do it every time.

Like we said, it’s something that everyone needs to see if you’re in the area, and we had an embarrassment of riches being located where we were.

Custer State Park / Iron Mountain Road

Just a mile or two from the entrance of Mount Rushmore is the entrance to one of the most intense and scenic set of highways we’ve ever experienced – Needles Highway and the Iron Mountain Road. Both of these highways are filled to the brim with twists and turns and switchbacks and tunnels. (We had an almost too close encounter with one of the tunnels on our arrival in the Black Hills, but were able to get re-routed without too much fuss.)

Both of these highways lead you into Custer State Park – the source of 90% of those famous photos of bison in the Black Hills. Custer State Park is thousands of acres of set-aside land, where wildlife can roam freely, and people can enjoy hikes and trails and even see some of that wildlife.

For us, the bison were a bit hidden, which was disappointing, but we did get to experience the infamous “begging burros” a couple of times. These guys just hang out near the road and wait for the people passing by to feed them. They were super friendly and calm, and Baron was happy to get to pet them.

The 1880 Train

Between Keystone and Hill City in South Dakota, there is an old mining train that takes the 10 mile journey back and forth several times a day. The journey takes about an hour each way, and was definitely a highlight of our stay in the Black Hills. We experienced the ride in an open air car on the way, and an enclosed car on the way back.

Pactola Reservoir

We had the opportunity to meet up with some dear friends while we were here in Donna and David Ryan (along with two of their girls, Abby and Darcy). We explored a little bit of Pactola Reservoir, kayaked, and just got to visit and catch up with our friends we haven’t seen in so long. We had so much fun!

Jewel Cave

One of the last things we did in South Dakota was visit the Jewel Cave National Monument. Jewel Cave is the third longest mapped cave in the world at just over 200 miles! We took a break from the “heat” (sorry Texas!) and descended over 30 stories down into the belly of the cave. Pictures don’t do this remarkable place justice at all.

We realized before writing this that it was probably worth several blogs, but we were already feeling a bit behind on keeping everyone up with what we we’ve been doing. We’re still working through the balance of work / family time / adventures, but we’re getting the hang of it. We’ve been surprised at how much we’ve been able to get done, and yet still have a lot of opportunities to get out and see things. That said, it’s still our plan to blog more, share more, and eventually start a YouTube channel! We’ll get there!

We’re on to Yellowstone next! Neither Yvette nor I have been there, so we’re excited to be able to spend this time together with family and friends that are meeting up along the way. We’ll share more very soon! In the meantime, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook!

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